A "Seaside Tsar" should be appointed to help regenerate Britain's forgotten seaside towns, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
A report called Creating Coastal Powerhouses found people living in seaside towns are more likely to be poorly educated and unemployed.
They are also more likely to be claiming benefits, it said.
A separate survey conducted by the owners of Butlins found 65% of people see the British seaside as "run down".
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation, nine out of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK are seaside communities, a list topped by Blackpool.
The BHA said urgent investment in both people and infrastructure is needed.
The report highlights a number of issues facing many resorts, including the collapse of industries such as shipbuilding and fishing, the demise of the traditional annual holiday by the seaside, growing drug use, and cutbacks in budgets affecting maintenance of public places, street cleaning and tourism promotion.
It has proposed a range of measures to tackle the decline, including offering incentives to get business investment to create jobs and growth.
It is also calling for improvements to broadband, road and rail access, and action to protect against the threat of rising sea levels.
The BHA cites the successful regeneration of Folkestone in Kent and the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and east Devon as examples of how the British seaside can recover.
It is calling for the creation of Coastal Enterprise Zones to encourage investment.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: "Our members… recognise the problems facing many coastal communities, but we also know there are fantastic opportunities to... help revive the Great British seaside holiday."
Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes, said: "Cleethorpes has been a traditional UK seaside resort since 1820 and the seaside is the lifeline of Cleethorpes' economy... but more could be done to support the local economy."
He welcomed the suggestions in the report.
'Pit of everlasting squalor'
About half of those questioned on behalf of holiday firm Butlins said they considered the seaside "a bit downmarket", with about a third saying they had not been since childhood.
About 40% said the British seaside was "tacky".
Dermot King, managing director of Butlins, recognised an "urgent need for a new approach to regenerating our coastal communities", with investment looking to the future.
However, the Mayor of Skegness, Dick Edginton, questions whether British seaside resorts really are "languishing in a pit of everlasting squalor".
He acknowledged there were issues affecting places like Skegness, but added: "If this town was in such a poor state, as this report seems to suggest, then people wouldn't come here in ever increasing numbers."